How to Buy a Signet Ring

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How to Buy a Signet Ring

Signet rings have a long history, stretching back as far as Ancient Egypt when the pharaoh would use the ring as a symbol of his station. Today people wear signet rings for ornamental reasons instead of practical ones. Customers can purchase a blank signet ring from a jewellery store or online website like eBay and have it engraved with their initials. Then, they can wear the ring wherever and whenever they wish.

Because signet rings are symbolic of wealth and power, they are usually only made out of precious metals. They usually lack gemstones, though some vintage pieces do use carnelian stones for engraving. Instead, the focus of the signet ring is on the metal band and the engraving. Therefore, when choosing a signet ring, the buyer needs to decide if they want a modern or antique ring, and then select one based on the quality of the metal band.

History of Signet Rings

To appreciate how special signet rings are, buyers should understand their history. Signet rings were once only worn by those in a position of power such as a king or a pope. The front of their ring bore their seal, usually a coat of arms. They used these rings for official documents and letters, pressing their signet into hot wax as their way of signing the paper. Oftentimes, the wax was used to seal the document so that the reader knew it had not been tampered with, and for this reasons signet rings are sometimes called seal rings.

Antique Signet Rings

True antique signet rings are rarely found on eBay because they are highly personal items and only produced in small quantities. In fact, for very important persons such as the pope, the signet ring was destroyed upon the death of the wearer. What few antique signet rings remain are very collectible and usually command high prices. Most of them end up in museums, but some buyers do have a private collection of signet rings from different time periods that they are permitted to sell.

Qualities of Antique Signet Rings

Antique signet rings differ from their modern counterparts because they served a practical purpose. Their engravings are very ornate, and instead of using initials typically bear a miniaturised coat of arms. Each engraving was done by hand in reverse so that once the seal was placed in the wax it would read as normal. This is not true of modern signet rings, whose engravings are done normally.

Antique Signet Ring Metals

Many antique signet rings were produced before international standards required that precious metals be marked to determine their purity. However, buyers should understand that if a signet ring comes from an antique period, it was probably made from a high-quality precious metal. In Europe, for example, most of the golden rings produced before the 19th century came from 22 ct gold, and for this alone they would cost a small fortune. Of course, since the wearers of these rings were very wealthy, they could afford to pay the high prices.

Modern Signet Rings

Signet rings began falling out of fashion for practical purposes once letters stopped being signed with wax. However, many members of the wealthy class continued wearing them as a symbol of their prestige and power, and it is a tradition that carries on to this very day. Modern signet rings are made from precious metals and contain delicate engravings. Sometimes, buyers even chose to use Egyptian hieroglyphs or Greek letters on their signet ring to highlight their long history.

Signet Ring Metal Bands

When it comes to selecting a signet ring, the metal used should be the primary focus. Each type has its pros and cons, and buyers should carefully weigh them all before making a selection. Some of the properties of the most popular metals are outlined below so that buyers know what they are actually purchasing.

Gold

Gold has long been the first choice of the rich and powerful. It is an extremely precious metal, and is known for its rarity and value. However, for such as expensive metal, pure gold is surprisingly soft in its natural state. For jewellery making purposes, pure gold is often mixed with other metal alloys to increase its strength, and change its colour. The amount of pure gold is measured in carats.

Gold Carat

Percentage of Pure Gold

British Mark

22

91.67

916

18

75

750

14

58.33

585

9

37.5

375

Pieces with the higher amount of pure gold scratch easily, but they are more valuable and collectors claim they have deeper colours than 9 ct or 12 ct gold. On the other hand, these are impractical pieces for everyday use since they can easily get damaged. Lower carat golds may not be as valuable, but they last longer, even if they are worn daily.

Platinum

Platinum signet rings are a modern invention since platinum began being used for jewellery during the 20th century. The value of platinum fluctuates with gold depending on the economic situation, but during times of economic stability platinum is more valuable. Even in difficult times when gold is more expensive than platinum, the cost of a platinum ring is still very high because it contains almost pure platinum. In fact, most jewellers only use rings with at least 95 per cent platinum.

Caring for Platinum

Platinum is relatively easy to care for since it does not scratch as easily as gold or tarnish like silver. However, as the metal ages it does start to develop a patina that brings out the blue undertones in this grey metal. Some customers appreciate this colour, but those who dislike it can always clean the ring using one part of dishwasher soap mixed with five parts water. This removes the patina from the ring, returning platinum back to its original glow.

Silver

Silver was a traditional choice for signet rings along with gold, and buyers can find antique silver signet rings. While it is not as valuable as gold, silver does not scratch as easily. However, it does tarnish, and how quickly it does so depends on how much copper is alloyed with the silver. Like gold, silver is often mixed with other metals to increase its strength, so most modern signet rings are marked according to how much pure silver they use.

Name

Pure Silver Percentage

Mark

Britannia Silver

95.8

958

Mexican Silver

95

950

Sterling Silver

92.5

925

Coin Silver

90

900

German Silver

80

800

Sterling silver rings are usually considered exceptional pieces of jewellery because they use so little copper that they do not discolour the skin, and they tarnish very slowly. Any type of silver that uses fewer metal alloys than sterling silver is often referred to as fine silver on the jewellery market. Antique pieces may not bear any markings, but most of them were also made from either sterling or fine silver.

Buying Signet Rings on eBay

Buyers can find both modern and antique signet rings on eBay. In fact, eBay has one of the largest selections of antique signet rings, attracting collectors from all over the world. Those who are looking for a modern signet ring to wear can find many blank ones made out of precious metals with exquisite band designs. These rings are sold in many different sizes, allowing even those with tiny hands to find the right signet ring that appeals to them.

Searching for Signet Rings on eBay

The best way to appreciate the large selection of signet rings on eBay is to browse through the enormous collection being offered. Those who want a modern ring can search for 'signet ring' or 'gold signet ring' to pull up the largest results. Of course, this lists all rings that match the search terms, including those that are not signet rings, so it is best to narrow down the results. Try searching for 'men's signet ring' to return only results for the specific type of signet ring you are looking for. You can even narrow the results even further by searching for '18 ct gold men's signet ring'.

Conclusion

A signet ring is a classic piece of men's jewellery, though women can wear them as well. These rings have a long and proud history, having been worn by kings and queens since ancient times. While they are mostly ornamental today, they remain emblematic of power and prestige. Anyone who owns a signet ring takes pride in themselves and their accomplishments. When buying signet rings on eBay, buyers should pay attention to what type of ring they want. Antique signet rings that are already engraved with a coat of arms are sometimes sold for very high prices while blank modern rings are more reasonable. Evaluate the ring based on the quality of the metal band, since this determines the overall value of the ring before it is even engraved. By making a careful selection based on the ring's design, a customer can get the most out of their signet ring.

 
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